I stayed up really late last night to finish Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson. This book was incredible! If you’ve read any of his other books, you know that Brandon’s world building is amazingly rich and complex. He does this by weaving the details of his carefully constructed fantasy world into the story, gradually revealing a beautiful land peopled with believable cultures, religions, and laws. Woven throughout the story is the mystery of Breath, the power of life that is manipulated, gathered, stolen, and given. The plot is exciting and dramatic, with lots of twists, and it keeps you engaged from the very start. But it is the characters that I love most. Vivenna and Siri are princesses of Idris, sisters with nothing in common. Vivenna starts out as calm, rational, strict, and almost cold, having been raised from birth with the knowledge that she will be sent to the kingdom of Hallandren to be the God King’s wife as part of the treaty between the two countries. Siri, on the other hand, is impetuous, fun, irresponsible, and likes to flaunt her colorful hair as she gallops out in the countryside. When their father, the king of Idris, sends Siri to Halladren instead, both sisters begin a long struggle to find out what they are really made of. Siri lives in the God King’s palace with great riches but no personal freedom, yet her personality is just what is needed to turn a cold, calculated marriage of state into a real and loving relationship. Siri is the one who can help the powerful God King, who is also a helpless victim of the machinations around him in spite of his thousands of Breaths. Vivenna goes to Halladren to rescue her sister and ends up becoming the pawn of a group of cut-throat mercenaries who joke and smile as they spread death and mayhem through the city. As Vivenna struggles to survive, she learns some hard truths about herself and what she will sacrifice to live, but also that her love for her people is real. She is eventually rescued and trained by the mysterious, grouchy, and powerful warrior Vashen, who has an agenda of his own as he goes about the city with his deadly, sentient sword trying to stop the coming war and bring old foes to justice. And then there is Lightsong, one of the minor gods of Halladren’s pantheon, who spends his days in idleness and splendor, but who searches for the meaning of his life. As a Returned, he has the power to heal just one person, but it will mean giving up his life to do it. He agonizes constantly over who he was before this twisted life began, and what he is meant to do, all the while being delightfully sarcastic, silly, and funny. He has a truly noble soul. Don’t let the length of this book scare you. It is definitely worth the time to read! It was one of the best books I’ve read this year.